One glimmer amongst the Budget gloom
I missed the live UK Budget announcements as I was out at a nature reserve in Norfolk, celebrating the middle one’s birthday by, amongst other things, dissecting owl pellets. It seems I wasn’t missing much – Chancellor Philip Hammond ‘has all the oratory flourishes of a reversing Securicor van’ as Marina Hyde so wonderfully put it, and the green content was barely noticeable.
I’ve said it before, I just don’t understand Hammond’s blinkers. He’s made strong right-of-centre arguments for tackling climate change in the past, the Government’s Green Growth Plan is far better than anyone expected it to be, and Environment Sec Michael Gove has grasped various nettles (notably banning neonicotinoids and microbeads) that his predecessors dodged. So why not put Sustainability front and centre of the budget?
But there was one glimmer in the murk. Hammond proposed a new tax on all plastic packaging manufactured or imported that has less than 30% recycled content. I’ve been into the budget documents and the level of tax has not yet been set, but this has the potential to be a game changer.
If (a big ‘if’) it is set high enough, this tax will create a huge demand for secondary plastics. Instead of Councils and businesses trying to find alternative disposal paths for plastic waste, manufacturers will be hunting down that waste. It is this ‘pull’ rather than the waste-hierarchy-style ‘push’ which will create the circular economy, building economies of scale, attracting investment and stimulating innovation.
It’s not sexy, like the postponed ‘latte levy’ on single use coffee cups. But it has the potential quietly change the economy around us, much in the way the carbon floor price has quietly transformed the UK’s electricity generation by squeezing the life out of the coal-fired sector and opening space for clean energy. One to watch…